24 August 2009

More puker than pukka

I like writing. Even more, I like having written. I like the discipline of writing to order and on schedule. But I could never have been a journalist because I am a painfully slow reader. Digesting press releases on the hoof, ahead of press conferences and deadlines, would just not have been my forte, and I take months getting through even the shortest of books. Which is why it was only yesterday that I published my review of the excellent Hops & Glory by Pete Brown, despite having been sent a copy shortly after it was published.

I had an English IPA sitting in my beer fridge and I reckoned I may as well crack it open to mark the end of my own two month voyage (of the armchair variety) to India with Pete. It's Fuller's India Pale Ale and comes in a bottle with a breathtakingly classy royal purple label. 5.3% ABV and bottle conditioned: this is a beer going all-out for the IPA purist -- the people who'll buy it based on the words "faithfully recreated" on the back label. Close your eyes, imagine a balmy tropical evening on the veranda, and try to ignore the way your beer smells of vomit.

It does smell of vomit, though, and this acidic harshness carries through into the flavour. There's a good body under it, and a hint of caramel sweetness, but those utterly unfruity bitter hops are very hard to get past and make the end beer really quite unpleasant to drink.

Prior to cracking the bottle open I had been drinking Big Daddy IPA by Speakeasy in California, recently on tap in the Bull and Castle as a limited-time guest beer. Here, there are firm and fruity mandarin and grapefruit notes in super-smooth harmony with the caramel malts. Mrs Beer Nut suggests that the Fuller's beer is just suffering by comparison, but I disagree: whatever way it's looked at, I think it's simply a poor quality beer. Crank up the alphas, throw in more crystal, then we'll talk.

15 comments:

  1. I've had a 4.8% version of Fullers IPA on draught and it was excellent. I really hope you did just have a dodgy bottle.

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  2. Laurent Mousson9:38 a.m.

    Could this be just a case of over-pasteurisation ? Burnt sugar, overstewed hops, metallic, sourish edge ? Could possibly evoke vomit...

    BTW in the puke-like catgory, the most amazingly accurate recreation of vomit I've had was Oudbeitje, the woodland strawberry lambic from Hanssens. But I'm told this was due to samples being older than they should.

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  3. Does the fact it states it's bottle conditioned preclude pasturisation?

    I'd love to try an IPA that was faithfully recreated. But probably not this one based on that description.

    Reminds me of the time I had a German customer try an American style IPA last year and he couldn't drink it, claiming it tasted like like a train station in Munich at 2am on a Saturday night. I loved it!

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  4. "Overstewed hops" is definitely an apposite descriptor, Laurent.

    Barry, Meantime claim lots of authenticity with their big IPA, but I'd still swap it for a C-hopped American version any time.

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  5. I had a bottle of the Speakeasy Big Daddy and thought little of it, and if anything *that* reminded me of sick with a really floral-buttery flavour?! I didn't get on with it, but maybe that's just me.

    I'd be interested to try the Fuller's IPA if only to get the tick. And I'm with you on the C-hopped IPAs - give me them any day (unless it tastes of perfumey sick)!

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  6. Bottled Big Daddy is a mere shadow of the draught version -- I didn't really care for the bottled version either, though I wouldn't have said it was actually unpleasant. I think kegging does something to citrc hops that doesn't happen in other serve methods -- Clotworthy Dobbin is Cascade central on keg, but isn't near as hoppy bottled or casked.

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  7. Give me anything but a C-hopped IPA. I prefer the smell of vomit to grapefruit.

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  8. "It does smell of vomit, though". Carlsberg doesn't.

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  9. I have more criteria than whether a beer does or doesn't smell of vomit. Though granted I think I would take a Carlsberg over another bottle of this.

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  10. Can't say I got any vomit from the bottle I tried but it certianly wasn't the best representation of an IPA I have encountered.

    I'm with you on the 'having written' fulfilment. I think that writing is a gratification in the true sense of the word in that it isn't very nice doing it, but the seensation of acheivement lasts longer than mere idle pleasures.

    As for your slow reading, that may well be true, but as a result you appear to retain EVERYTHING in that baldy head, archived forever, comprehensively indexed, readily accessible and usually used to correct something I said while we're having a pint.

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  11. Not everything. Just beer things. Anniversaries; things I said I'd get from the shops: they don't get retained so easily...

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  12. Interesting theory Thom. I fly though books, so it probably explains why I can't remember a damn thing. It's definitely not the lack of hair that helps TBN retain things. I'm living proof...

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  13. Note to self, must try some Vomit beer.

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  14. That comment just reminded me of a tasting session where sbilling had an infected beer that just reeked of bile and vomit. Tasted ok though. Apparently.

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  15. Yep. I was the only one brave enough to taste it. Everyone else smelled it and said 'That's vomit, alright'.

    I put the there's-no-known-pathogenic-bacteria-that-live-in-beer mantra to the test that evening.

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